Accident reporting procedures

Updated February 21, 2017

When an accident occurs in or on business or public premises, there are two lives at stake -- the life of the victim and the life of the business. Accidents that seem minor can lead to life-threatening or chronic ailments. In fact, there are even con-artists who prey on businesses with lax accident reporting by suing for fraudulent damages. Following proper accident reporting procedure not only ensures that everyone stays safe but also allows businesses to protect their assets against civil lawsuits.

Inform the supervisor

When an accident occurs, employee should immediately notify her supervisor. The supervisor will then enact the company's accident reporting protocol. In specialised service industries (e.g., journalism, advertising, law, software design, engineering, architecture, etc.), the office manager fills this role instead. As a rule, the accident should be reported (at the latest) by the end of that same workday.

Assess the situation

As soon as the supervisor becomes aware that an accident has occurred, he should do a quick visual scan of the site to check for imminent hazards (e.g. live wire, fire, chemical spill, unstable structures and wild animals). This keeps him safe and able to help the victim.

If the area is safe, check to see if the victim is conscious or responsive. Do not shake the victim's shoulder to get his attention, as this could aggravate an unseen neck injury. Instead, touch or pinch his calf.

Should he not respond, call "999" right away. Check for a pulse and breathing, but do not perform CPR unless you are currently certified. "Good Samaritan laws" only protect people who administer CPR if the rescuer has a non-expired CPR certification at the time of the accident.

If there are no hazards and the victim is conscious, say, "Are you OK?" Carefully note the victim's manner and behaviour. Most people do not realise they have a concussion, but the symptoms will be evident. If you see any critical injuries (e.g., broken bones, head/neck injury, copious bleeding), immediately call "999." If injuries are not outwardly visible (save a small cut or scratch), ask victim if he would like to see doctor. If he says "Yes," then call 999. If the victim declines emergency services, offer him use of the onsite first aid kit.

During this entire process, make sure that you have at least two witnesses, preferably unrelated to the victim. Witnesses can help fill in and confirm details when you complete an official report of the accident later. Also, if the victim or victim's family ends up suing, impartial witnesses will be crucial to your defence.

Ensure victims receive appropriate care

If you call 999, stay with the victim until paramedics arrive (provided there are no immediate hazards like fire or live wire). Calling the paramedics and leaving the victim alone could easily be construed as negligence or endangerment.

Even when a victim refuses help, simply asking to "sit down" or "walk it off," at least one employee witness should maintain constant visual contact with him while on the premises in case of fainting.

Finally, if a victim refuses to call 999 but asks you to call a doctor, taxi or family member for a ride, make sure that you do.

Identify, interview witnesses

Find out everyone who directly witnessed the accident, whether staff, patrons or passersby. If the victim was only found after the accident, determine the first people to encounter him after it occurred (as well as the order in which they encountered him).

Get a first name, last name, physical address and phone number for each witness. This will give you greater resources to tap when compiling your report.

Take pictures

Aside from shutting off gas, flipping off circuit breakers or extinguishing fires, do not tidy up an accident scene. Rather, instruct staff not to touch anything until either authorities arrive or pictures are taken. Photograph damaged property both up close and from a distance; this will help you fortify your version of events with visual evidence. Politely ask the victim if you could take a picture of his injuries. If he declines, do not press him further.

Dealing with law enforcement

If the accident is serious enough to warrant 999 (or if the victim calls the police himself to file a complaint), an officer or detective will arrive on the scene to interview the supervisor and witnesses to compile an official police report. As a rule, answer the questions honestly and succinctly. Do not offer additional information beyond what is asked.

Dealing with the press

Because accidents have the potential to turn into court cases, the supervisor needs to make it clear to employees that they should not answer any questions from reporters (off-the-record or otherwise). Instead, they should say "I'm not allowed to talk about that because of a pending lawsuit."

Complete internal accident report

Whether minor or serious, accidents should always be followed by an official company accident report. Each company has its own protocol, but a good report will include dates, timelines, names of witnesses, names of victims, contact info on all parties involved, a description of the accident with as many quantitative (i.e. numerical) details as possible, a detailed description of how the accident was dealt with and a list of property damaged in the accident.

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About the Author

A Chicago-based copywriter, Andy Pasquesi has extensive experience writing for automotive (BMW, MINI Cooper, Harley-Davidson), financial services (Ivy Funds, William Blair, T. Rowe Price, CME Group), healthcare (Abbott) and consumer goods (Sony, Motorola, Knoll) clients. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Harvard University but does not care for the Oxford comma.